The Australia Space Agency’s first spacecraft has been booked for launch. 

The SpIRIT spacecraft, the first selected for funding by the Australia Space Agency, has been booked with launch service provider ISISPACE to blast off on the Falcon 9 Transporter 8 rocket in April 2023.

The spacecraft is being designed and built by a consortium led by the Melbourne Space Laboratory at the University of Melbourne, with participation from Australian industry partners and the Italian Space Agency. 

It will operate in orbit for two years, demonstrating the long-term performance of Australian-made space technology.

The Space Industry Responsive Intelligent Thermal (SpIRIT for short) is a small shoebox-sized nanosatellite (just 30cm) during launch, but once in orbit it will deploy solar panels and thermal radiators stretching to nearly a metre long. 

It will run a suite of powerful scientific instruments, cameras, guidance systems, communication antennae, on-board computers with artificial intelligence capabilities, and even its own electric propulsion thruster.

At only 11.5 kg, SpIRIT is too small to fly on a rocket on its own, so the team booked a rideshare service through ISISPACE, one of the world's most experienced launch service providers. 

ISISPACE will carefully package SpIRIT in a canister and integrate it into a ring hosting dozens of other small satellites, and then deliver the package to the US-based launch pad for a short ride to low Earth orbit (about 550 km above the surface).

The main scientific instrument of the mission is an advanced X-ray detector to discover gamma rays, some of the Universe’s most powerful explosions.

Once in orbit, SpIRIT will commence its mission to demonstrate multiple made-in-Australia technological innovations, including the first flight of Inovor Technologies’ Apogee satellite platform and of the Neumann Space thruster.

The Australian Space Agency is injecting almost $4 million into this space science mission through its International Space Investment Initiative. 

Australian Space Agency Head, Enrico Palermo says it is terrific to see such an important milestone reached.

“The pace at which progress is being made on SpIRIT is testament to the knowledge and skill that exists in the Australian space sector and what can be achieved when we collaborate with our international partners. I thank our partners at the Italian Space Agency, ASI for their contributions to this project,” Mr Palermo said.

“The Australian Space Agency is proud to back SpIRIT, and I look forward to seeing it in orbit very soon, helping us to better understand the Universe in which we live and gathering crucial flight heritage for Australian technology.” 

SpIRIT is arguably the most ambitious civil space mission since the Federation satellite was launched almost twenty years ago, according to Dr Airlie Chapman from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at the University of Melbourne.

“It represents an outstanding opportunity to gain highly valuable experience for contributing to future missions reaching the moon and beyond, and to strengthen the Australian Space Sector, growing international reputation and collaboration opportunities,” Dr Chapman says.